Need to Know: August 23, 2019

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: Why you have to keep logging in to read news on your phone (it’s complicated and no one is happy) (Vox)

But did you know: ‘Subscribe with Google’ entices publishers by reducing payment and log-in friction (What’s New in Publishing)

“Subscribe with Google” allows users to quickly subscribe to news publications and maintain access everywhere — on websites, apps and even search results — as long as they’re logged into their Google account. “No more irritating paywalls popping up when you’ve already paid, and no more struggling to stay logged in when you switch from laptop to mobile device,” writes Monojoy Bhattacharjee. In tests with two major publishers, the tool worked 30% better than the publishers’ own workflow, according to Christian Heise, Google’s Global Product Partnerships Manager. To date, almost 50 publishers from across the world have begun integrating Subscribe with Google into their operations, and McClatchy has implemented it on all 30 of its local sites. “By removing friction, there’s a new injection of energy that’s possible in subscriber economics,” said Craig Forman, President and CEO of McClatchy. “It’s sort of a game-changer — or at least has the potential to be a game-changer.”

+ Related: Work with what you have: how to improve subscription registration and payment forms 

+ Noted: News Corp is working on a news-aggregation service that will address publishers’ concerns about Google and Facebook (Wall Street Journal); The Washington Post adds browsable, visual reading experience to Washington Post app (Washington Post); National Association of Hispanic Journalists rejects Fox News as conference sponsor (HuffPost)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: fact-checking warnings may reduce irresponsible sharing; Instagram “fact” pages make money through misinformation; and how conspiracy theorists have hijacked climate-related terms to spread misinformation on YouTube.


Medill’s small-markets study reinforces importance of creating reader habit (Medill Local News Initiative) 

Building reader habit, which is strongly linked to subscriber retention, is just as important for small news outlets as it is for major metro publishers, a recent Medill study found. Comparing 12 small local news outlets to three major metro newspapers, the study also showed that national news is more important for subscriber retention in small markets, and sports coverage is less of a retention driver. To encourage a daily habit in readers, bigger publishers often send out several newsletters a day — something more lightly-staffed papers can’t do, noted Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute. However, he said, they could try newsletters in a more limited way, “to get the reading option in front of readers.”


How the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is moving the needle on gender diversity (ABC)

The ABC is taking a dual approach to the 50:50 project: It’s aiming to “deliver more content that prioritizes women’s experiences and perspectives,” and to increase the contribution of women experts across its programming. To accomplish both objectives, it brought in representatives from several women’s industry networks for a discussion on shaping content, and issued a callout asking women to nominate themselves to be added to the ABC’s database of expert sources. “Staff across the ABC have enthusiastically embraced what we are trying to do and are constantly coming forward with new ideas,” write Rhiannon Hobbins and Flip Prior. “We’re working to expand the project across the ABC, holding content development and talent diversity workshops with teams across the country.”


The untapped power of vulnerability and transparency in content strategy (A List Apart)

Using vulnerability and transparency only as a crisis management strategy diminishes how sincere companies appear and can reduce customer satisfaction, writes Travis McKnight. But “authentic vulnerability” and transparency that’s woven into content — for example, though origin stories, customer life experiences, and product and service insights — can help build more trusting relationships with customers. It’s something useful for journalists and editors to remember — transparency doesn’t mean just owning up to reporting mistakes and explaining investigative methods (although that’s important too). It should also mean tapping into our power as storytellers to make more empathetic connections anywhere we produce content, from About pages and subscription ads to reporting and opinion content.     

+ Earlier: KPCC reporters write their own individual mission statements, which appear alongside their stories and on their staff bios (Medium, LAist/KPCC)


Recession watch: Does anyone know what they’re talking about? (Columbia Journalism Review)

This week’s media hand-wringing over the possibility of a recession may be unnecessary — and dangerous, writes Zainab Sultan. “We talk about it so much that we end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Julia Chatterley, an anchor and correspondent for CNN International. Several finance reporters have pointed out that economists, too, are “just guessing” — and their economic forecasts often turn out to be inaccurate. “Reporters, just like anybody else, are subject to groupthink,” added Lydia DePillis, a trade and economic policy reporter at ProPublica. “The public sentiment around recession is influenced by the media, and that’s a very dangerous thing to get wrong.”

+ Is it okay to use the word “queer,” a former slur, in reporting? Listeners have mixed feelings. (NPR)


The decline of college newspapers (The Atlantic)

Student newspapers have long served as watchdogs for their universities — and, as local newspapers continue to shrink, for their communities at large. But interference from college administrators, who typically control funding of student publications, is becoming the norm for student journalists — and an ever-bigger barrier to their reporting. “The need for aggressive student news organizations is as acute as ever,” writes Adam Willis. “But image-obsessed administrators are hastening the demise of these once-formidable campus watchdogs.”


+ Can “climate fiction” make more of an impact on readers than traditional reporting on climate change? High Country News is testing this theory with its “speculative journalism” project, for which reporters asked climate scientists and readers to imagine a “multiverse” of future Wests impacted by climate change, all set in the year 2068. (High Country News); Plus, more news outlets are experimenting with “news games” around climate change, hoping that the interactive experiences will communicate the enormity of the challenge more effectively than straight reporting. (Columbia Journalism Review)

 +  Three years into nonprofit ownership, The Philadelphia Inquirer is still trying to chart its future: “We’ve got a revenue target (for 2024) that is not a whole lot different than today’s annual revenue target, but it is totally reversed in terms of our print versus digital revenue target. It’s basically flipping over.” (Nieman Lab) 

+ Misinformation has created a new world disorder (Scientific American)